Image copyright AFP Image caption The UK Home Office has vowed to do all it can to end the use of fake identities
Will you ever believe a passport means you are really who you say you are?
Legally, it doesn’t. But in the murky world of cross-border identities, it does.
Thousands of fake passports are put into circulation every year by organised crime groups.
They can be used to get lucrative contracts, access sensitive data or simply try to get into one of the EU’s 2,440 registered venues.
Inevitably, fraudsters and jihadists have exploited a huge infrastructure that has grown up in the UK since the 1997 Human Extradition Act.
Businesses such as motorway ploughing company Yoxe have been among those caught up in the rise of fake documents.
The biggest UK sellers
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Yoxe collapsed last year after supplier documents were stolen
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) first identified the country of origin as Greece, which has since been followed by Britain.
Asda, a supermarket chain based in the UK, was Britain’s biggest seller of fake documents last year. It was followed by Yoxe Ploughing, according to Soca.
In the Uk last year a reported 63% of fake passports were manufactured from 22 fake makers, with another 19 supply companies suspected of handing out fake passports to their customers.
“The main motivator is profit and virtually everyone wants to maximise their profit margin,” Kieren McCarthy, head of sophisticated supply chains at industry body Suppliers Forum, told the BBC in an interview.
However, this is highly lucrative work. Seizures of fake documents produced for the UK’s Channel Tunnel between France and Kent have soared in recent years.
Last year the total value of invalid documents seized at the French border reached £37m and Soca said it planned to target firms suspected of processing paperwork for the Channel Tunnel.
That’s according to Kevin O’Brien, the first commissioner for UK Border Force.
Image copyright NATS Image caption The Channel Tunnel is one of the UK’s most high-profile regular customers for fake passports
“What we have seen is that this type of business has grown rapidly,” he told the BBC.
He added that fake travel documents were “nothing new”, but they had never been a national security concern until the new Global Partnerships Act took effect.
“Our entire system of border security collapsed because we saw that the border authority became completely complacent,” he said.
“That’s why we have gone from 200 officers in three weeks to 2,700 officers in 12 months. In other words, our border security system stopped working.”
The Home Office has promised to do all it can to end the use of fake identities in its national identity programme, but warned the scale of the problem was enormous.
In the meantime, going by its most recent numbers, Britain’s Channel Tunnel suppliers continue to provide fake British passports on high volumes.